// By Ryan Nims
The 2000s have been a great era for soul music. Daptone and Colemine have been leading the charge in discovering and cultivating some of the best music of the last few years. One of the leading bands in the Neo-soul movement is Austin’s own Colemine-connected psychedelic soul duo Black Pumas.
Led by Eric Burton and one of Austin’s busiest musicians, Adrian Quesada (Grupo Fantasma, Brownout), their 2019 self-titled debut album came out to high praise and has been followed by the excellent sophomore effort Chronicles of a Diamond, just released from ATO records.
The album opens with the single “More Than a Love Song,” a foot-stomping number with gospel vibes that speaks of not taking life for granted and finding joy in music.
“Ice Cream (Pay Phone)” is a funky track built around Quesada’s heavy guitar and Burton’s falsetto vocals. Lyrically, it seems to tap into the feelings of new love, and calling one’s lover from the road.
On the surface, “Mrs. Postman” is a love song about the postal worker who is bringing Burton his mail, but also a song for blue-collar workers, reminding us how much joy we can get from the people whom we may not often think about in our everyday lives.
The title track “Chronicles of a Diamond” slows things down a bit, leading into the folky “Angel.” Quesada’s guitar solo in “Angel” really pushes the emotion of the song, which seems to be about finding peace in an unstable world.
Kicking off the second side of the record, “Hello” is a dreamy gospel song steeped in reverb. The track leads into the rocking “Sauvignon,” which is built on an infectious organ riff – and again showcasing Burton’s vocal range.
From here the album leans heavily on the psychedelic soul! “Tomorrow” builds on a groovy organ figure and Quesada’s effects-laden guitar work, followed by some beautiful strings in the choruses.
“Gemini Sun” is perhaps the most psychedelic of the bunch; driven by a droning synth and funky organ, the song is heavy and funky.
The album’s fantastic closing track, the stomping “Rock and Roll,” opens on a lilting piano and acoustic guitar, before adding a carnival-like organ and guitar part that takes the song into an otherworldly place, accented by Quesada’s electric guitar solo. The song crescendos into an exciting mix of vocal effects and that circus-like organ before coming to an abrupt end.
Chronicles of a Diamond has been one of my most anticipated releases of 2023, and on my many listens since it was released on Friday, October 27th, it has become one of my favorites of the year.
If you haven’t already, I recommend giving it a listen, and if you want to pick it up, head over to one of Austin’s fine independent record shops to pick up a copy!